Shortly after landing in Shanghai last weekend, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a page out of Chinese President’s Hu diplomatic playbook. On her stopover before the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SED) in Beijing, the highest ranking official in the Obama Administration in charge of U.S. Foreign Policy is looking for a dramatic change in relations between the two nations.
The Secretary of State is calling for a move away from relations built on traditional “zero-sum” game of power politics, often associated with the cold war mentality of the past USSR-US rivalry, to a “win win” strategy whereby both countries seek mutual and complementary benefits. Although some in the US still are unclear how to deal with the emerging economic and political power of China, the “win win” view underlying President Hu’s Peaceful Development policies are now apparently shared by the Obama administration.
In an attempt to build the “strategic” trust necessary to transition from a “zero-sum” to a “win win” world view, the two nation’s leaders established the SED with the hope of building understanding and developing mutual respect for the core interests of both countries. Any attempt by the Secretary of State to help promote a healthy and balanced view of China, and one where the relationship could, perhaps, develop into a “strategic partnership” rather one based on “strategic competition” will serve both nations, and the greater Asia pacific area, if not the world, greatly.
For the Secretary of State to win over those who would make China a target of cold war thinking will take not only great skill, but also the willingness of President Obama to engage the American people directly with concrete objectives and goals to develop a “win win” relationship with China. Although pressure from Congress to “show results” from SED, particularly with respect to the revaluation of the RMB, the Secretary of State could also use her considerable political skills to attempt to convince Americans that China is part of the solution for fixing the US economy, not the problem, in spite of what some in Congress may say.
As both President Obama said during his visit to China last year, and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke said last week at a speech Tsinghua University, cooperation with China, specifically in the area of clean, green, high technology would create millions of new jobs and develop new industrial sectors both in the US and in China.
Yet, words, no matter how eloquent, will not be enough to change the mindset of the vested interests in Washington who wish to distract the American people with the “us against them” rhetoric of the cold war from the real issues confronting the nation.
Antonio Mario Angotti is adjunct Professor of International Affairs and Energy Security Policy at Harbin University, Harbin China and the Managing Director for China and Central Asia for Praetorian Trust, a Swiss Asset Management firm. He is based in Beijing.